An e-mail from Campus Safety on Monday, March 10 brought fear and worry to many Colgate students as the threat of a possible campus shooting was exposed. The threat came from an anonymous post made on the JuicyCampus.com website, which was brought to the attention of Campus Safety. Within hours, local and state law enforcement agencies were at work with the University to track down the individual responsible for the post. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 11, Colgate junior George So was connected to the post and taken into custody by New York State Police.
The event began when sophomore Brittany Messenger discovered the post while doing research for a commentary about the website.
“I would have felt so guilty having read that and known that that post was made and something did happen,” Messenger said, “so I called Campus Safety and they hadn’t been alerted of that yet. I just saw it as a precautionary method to place the call.”
The post, which was apparently designed to protest the controversial gossip website, read, “I wonder if i could shut down the school… By saying I?m going to shoot as many people as i can in my second class tomorrow, I hope I get more than 50……….. For liability reasons and ip tracking I won’t leave it at that. But seriously, this site is rediculous, if it got big, and someone put the effort into writing a big long serious suicide note informing all readers that he would kill over 100 kids, they could shut down the school. [sic]”
While students were notified and reassured through e-mail, behind the scenes Colgate wasted no time in investigating the matter. The University’s Crisis Management Team, comprised of a handful of administrators, was assembled to coordinate a response.
“Very quickly that Monday afternoon we got together and came up with a plan,” Vice-President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said. “That plan essentially involved [Interim Director of Campus Safety] Dick Matte coordinating with local, state, and it ended up being federal law enforcement agencies.”
Colgate’s main task was tracking down the individual. However, JuicyCampus.com provides its users with “completely anonymous posts.” Director of Information Technology Services (ITS) David Gregory further explained the matter.
“We don’t spy on students; we don’t actively monitor what students are doing,” Gregory said. “We don’t look at the activity of a student unless we get some kind of law enforcement coming to us saying ‘this has to be done, we have some issue.’ Our role was … to use technology to discover who that person was.”
On Monday evening the combined resources of ITS and State Police crime investigation units concentrated their efforts. Through a subpoena process in the state of California, authorities were able to obtain a computer IP address from JuicyCampus.com. Led by Director of Networks, Systems, and Operations John Gattuso, ITS was able to use the address to identify the computer used in the post. Between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., Gattuso presented the evidence to authorities. State Police proceeded to apprehend So, the identified individual.
On Tuesday morning, the possible risk of a shooting was not completely defused. Matte met with over 50 officers of different agencies in the Southern Madison County Ambulance Corps building in town to plan a method of response if other individuals not yet apprehended were involved. It was not long after that the agencies were finally able to acknowledge that the threat had subsided.
Several news and media outlets picked up the story of the threat, including the New York Times.
Now that the threat has passed, many members of the community turn their attention to JuicyCampus.com itself. The website has evoked strong reprimands, but such emotions are not all new. Individuals have, in the past, sought to ban JuicyCampus.com from the Colgate Network. Gregory, however, sees that action as an improbable move.
“We don’t do that; if we tried to block access to offensive sites on the Internet, that’s all we’d ever do because there’s a lot of it,” he said. “Plus, it’s just not right; there’s free speech.”
Regardless, there is much activity within the student government as thoughts of boycotting the site are beginning to rise.